La French Tech at the Consumer Electronics Show 2017

The Chinese calendar’s Year of the Rooster will soon begin, but attendees of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas were already seeing roosters everywhere thanks to yet another strong showing by La French Tech.

In recent years, France has dominated the show’s famed Eureka Park, an exhibition space within CES where startups showcase their innovative products. This year, there were nearly 200 French companies in Eureka Park alone. To put it another way, France accounted for about one-third of all startups in Eureka Park.

Mais pourquoi?

What is it about the French that makes them excel as entrepreneurs? And why the seemingly recent upsurge in talent?

As a French to English translator specializing in innovative technology, I’ve been following La French Tech online for a few years. But I hadn’t yet experienced it in person. So I decided to spend a day at CES this year to witness La French Tech in action.

La French Tech Press Conference

My first stop after picking up my attendee badge was the La French Tech press conference.

The press conference was moderated by Romain Lacombe, CEO of Plume Labs, a company whose technology helps consumers track air quality. He outlined three factors behind France’s entrepreneurial success and modern relevance, including:

  • highly talented engineers with a strong background in mathematics
  • the role of design in French culture, given the increasing focus by consumers on design and integration of tech into daily life
  • rising movement of risk-taking and venture financing

Lacombe pointed out that, while “entrepreneur” is a French word, the startups at CES all have a global strategic focus. He then allowed representatives of four La French Tech startups to speak individually about their companies. The featured speakers were Grégory Veret of Xooloo (integrated technology coach for children), Stéphane Jaubertou of Sevenhugs (streamlined smart home control), Luc Pierart of PKparis (painless blood glucose monitor watch), and Evelyne Raby of CybelAngel (online data security monitoring service).

Next to speak were two representatives from the investment side of French innovation: Ben Marrel of Breega Capital and Nicholas El Baze of Partech Ventures. They mentioned the strong education system in France, the talent of French engineers and their worldly perspective, the “cool” factor of entrepreneurship among new graduates of French universities, the strong ecosystem of support (La French Tech), and of course, the large amount of investment happening in France specifically and Europe as a whole.

To inspire upcoming startups, the next speaker was Quentin Sannié of Devialet, creator of the premium Phantom audio system and considered a unicorn among French technology companies, with its tremendous global growth and success.

The final speaker of the press conference was Axelle Lemaire (pictured above), France’s Secretary of State for Digital Technology & Innovation.

Lemaire spoke about the government’s role in promoting innovation in France in recent years. Faced with a struggling economy and high unemployment, a decision was made in 2012 to proactively invest in innovation in order to add value and create future jobs. She identified the requirements needed for truly successful innovation:

  • people: good engineering and business schools/universities in France, which are free to attend and therefore highly accessible to students. Also, coding is now a requirement in children’s education, and the government has allocated funding to train teachers. The government also offers training in web design and development that has proven highly successful in terms of job placement.
  • infrastructures: France has invested €21 billion to provide the entire country with high-speed broadband by 2021. The government has also invested in creating a vast data infrastructure, thereby creating new integration opportunities for businesses.
  • regulation: support for investment in startups. Example: legal framework for crowdfunding, reducing corporate taxation, creating favorable stock option and profit sharing plans, promoting public funding, a research and development tax credit, and more.
  • policies: La French Tech and the Alliance pour l’innovation ouverte (Alliance for Open Innovation) initiatives to help entrepreneurs.

Eureka Park

Before I got downstairs to the exhibition hall, the thought crossed my mind that I might not be able to distinguish the French companies from the others.

Yeah…. not an issue. La French Tech roosters as far as the eye can see!

I spent all afternoon visiting booths and talking with French entrepreneurs about their products, their success stories, and their future plans. I geeked out, asked lots of questions, traded business cards, posed with a robot, saw a 3D-printed violin, sat on a sound-vibration enabled couch, had my skin computer-analyzed, talked about my kids, and talked about other people’s kids.

Hopefully, I will have an opportunity to work with at least some of the companies I met to help them reach their goals as their products launch in North America and require translations into US English.

Afterthoughts

What I hadn’t grasped prior to CES was what an incredibly optimistic and supportive group La French Tech has formed for its many innovators. They posed for group photos together (or “family photos”, as they adoringly call them), visited each others’ booths, eagerly pitched their inventions, and won numerous prestigious CES Innovation Awards.

I unfortunately didn’t have time to meet with all of the French companies at CES 2017. Next year, I’ll plan to spend more time at the show, and by then, perhaps France will account for half of Eureka Park. Pourquoi pas?

Review of the ATI 2016 Conference

As a professional practice, I aim to attend at least one translation conference per year. Obviously, there are many benefits in attending conferences. I personally love conferences for networking, learning opportunities, and keeping a pulse on key topics and trends.

Conferences are also a great way to explore other parts of the world. Earlier this year, I visit Prague for the wonderful BP16 Translation Conference, and in a few weeks, I’ll be in San Francisco for the widely attended American Translators Association’s Annual Conference.

While attending these conferences in distant locations, people sometimes ask me about the networking I do with fellow language professionals on a local level where I live in Arizona. Sadly, I’ve had nothing to report… until now.

ATI 2016

On Saturday, October 1, 2016, I was one of over 100 attendees at the Arizona Translators & Interpreters Annual Conference in Phoenix.

The keynote speaker was Tony Rosado, who has interpreted at the highest levels and is a thoroughly entertaining presenter. In his talk, Rosado provided a brief history of interpreting and translation to demonstrate the importance of our profession and the value we provide. He stressed that we must recognize our worth and educate our clients so that they too see our value (and pay us accordingly).

He pointed out that translation and interpreting is a “profession”, not an “industry”. After all, we are professionals, not cogs in a system. He also suggested that we stop using the term “rates” and instead refer to our prices as “fees” as other professionals do.

The one-day conference was organized into three concurrent tracks of sessions. Much of the content focused on interpreting, which is fitting since many ATI members and conference attendees are interpreters. One track, however, focused on translation, which is where I spent my time.

All of the presenters were highly qualified and knowledgeable.

Dr. Gloria Rivera gave a scientific talk on forensic science, explaining how fingerprinting, blood, and DNA is used in forensics. Although this is not my area of specialization, I found her presentation very interesting.

Aimee Benavides spoke on the use of parallel texts in researching specialized terminology. She demonstrated methods for finding native-language texts and avoiding translated texts that may contain mistranslated terminology.

Lucy Matticoli-Mason provided an enthusiastic demonstration of Trados Studio and MultiTerm. As a regular user of Studio, I didn’t expect to learn much from this session, but she covered some tricks I didn’t know before. I also feel much more confident about using MultiTerm.

Felipe Lopez gave a tech talk on Passolo, a not-so-user-friendly tool designed more for software engineers than for translators. Still, it was useful to see how this tool works from the standpoint of someone who actually understands it.

Final Thoughts

All in all, the ATI Annual Conference was a well-organized event that truly honored our profession and left me feeling motivated.

While I will continue travelling thousands of miles to distant conferences, I look forward to many more opportunities to be part of and help foster the local translation community here in Arizona.